Today in Sports History: June 18th


(Wade sinks the game-winning freebie. Photo courtesy of Getty Images)

6/18/1986 - Don Sutton gets win No. 300

Pitching for the California Angels, Don Sutton records the 300th win of his major league career. Sutton, who would spend the better part of two decades as an Atlanta Braves analyst on TBS, finished his career with 324 wins and a 3.26 ERA. However, it would take him five tries to get into the Hall of Fame; some voters believed that his win total was inflated due to his 23 years in the league, and that on a talent level he wasn't a Hall of Famer. Sutton would eventually get inducted in 1998.

6/18/2006 - Howard's timeout costs Mavs in Game 5

Dallas had all but secured an NBA championship when they led Miami by 13 midway through the fourth quarter of Game 3. But D-Wade scored 15 in the period and the Heat made every tough shot down the stretch; Miami barely won by two. Then in a shocker, the Heat came back and destroyed the Mavericks, 98-74, in Game 4. Suddenly the Heat had life, but they still needed a another win to avoid back-to-back elimination games in Dallas.

The Mavericks' leading sixth man, Jerry Stackhouse, missed Game 5 after the league suspended him for a flagrant foul on Shaquille O'Neal (which most agreed was not worthy of a one-game suspension). The Mavericks' big three compensated for Stackhouse's absence. Jason Terry, Josh Howard, and Dirk Nowitzki all had big bounce-back games; both Howard and Terry had 19 by halftime and Dallas led by nine at the intermission.

After being torched by him in Games 3 and 4, Dallas made it clear that Dwyane Wade was going to have to work for his scoring. Wade's points never came easily and he was sent to the line 25 times (four more than the entire Dallas team). He began the game shooting 3-14 from the field, but like he did in Game 3, he turned it on when the game mattered most. Wade scored 17 points in the final quarter, including Miami's last 11 in regulation. His leaning banker over Adrian Griffin tied the score at 93 with only a few seconds left. Jason Terry then missed a tightly contested mid-range jumper and the game went to overtime.

The Mavericks were in control with a minute remaining in the extra session. However, Josh Howard missed an enormous pair of free throws to keep Dallas' lead at one; Gary Payton then converted a left-handed layup on the Heat's next possession to make it 99-98 Miami with 29.8 seconds remaining. Dirk Nowitzki, who had a terrible shooting game that included a giant missed free throw in the fouth quarter, made his clutchest shot of the series: a turn-around jay over James Posey and Shaquille O'Neal to swap the lead in Dallas' favor with 9.1 seconds to go.

To no one's surprise, Pat Riley's decided to put the ball in Dwyane Wade's hands on the Heat's final possession. Wade was forced to receive the basketball in the back court and stumbled with it as a swarm of Mavericks jostled for the steal. Wade somehow dribbled past everyone and flung his body into the lane for an oddly-contorted layup. Joey Crawford bailed him out by calling a rather dubious foul on Nowitzki, who had barely laid a hand on Wade.

Dwyane's first free throw was pure and tied the game at 100-100. Even if Wade made the next one, the Mavs still had 1.9 seconds to attempt a shot.

Avery Johnson frantically motioned for Josh Howard to indicate that they wanted a timeout after Wade's free throw. Howard either misunderstood or figured that Crawford knew what he intended, for he then signaled Dallas' final timeout, which Crawford immediately granted. Johnson pleaded his case with the officials, but he couldn't convince them to un-grant the timeout. The players went back onto the court and watched Wade hit his record 21st free throw of the night, giving Miami a one-point lead.


(Johnson pleading his case with Joe Crawford. Photo courtesy of Getty Images)

Without the luxury of advancing the ball, all the Mavericks could muster was a half-court prayer from Devin Harris that grazed off the top of the backboard. As the Heat players celebrated, Nowitzki angrily punted the ball into the throngs of the crowd while Mavs owner Mark Cuban had a few last minute remarks for the officials: "F*** you! F*** you! Your league is rigged!" Cuban was fined $250,000 grand for his remarks.

Miami carried on the momentum by winning the title in Dallas two nights later. Dwayne Wade was the unanimous MVP, while Gary Payton, Alonzo Mourning and Antoine Walker finally had their rings. And Shaquille O'Neal managed to win a title without the assistance of Kobe Bryant -- giving him bragging rights in their personal feud.

It was a sad end for Dirk Nowitzki, who had a tremendous 2006 season. He hit the series-clinching jumper against Memphis in the first round, he hit the game-tying basket in Game 7 against the Spurs, and he scored 50 points in Game 5 against the Suns. But Wade had clearly outplayed him in the series and Nowitzki was left to mull criticism that he didn't show up enough.

The next season, both Miami and Dallas lost in the first round to younger, quicker Bulls and Warriors teams. Dallas continued to be relevant in the West while the Heat rapidly fell to the worst record in the NBA; Miami traded Shaq only a year and half after winning it all.

Further reading:

Wade Scores 43, and the Heat Takes Command [New York Times]

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